Generative AI tools may revolutionize the way fundraisers create and manage content.
Update: See A Better ChatGPT for fundraising appeals using GPT-4 (Mar 20, 2023)
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, launched a new API service on March 1st, allowing access to the language models that power the popular generative AI chatbot.
Why does this matter for fundraisers? Because software developers can now start building ChatGPT capabilities into their own products and fine-tune them to serve the specific needs of their users — including fundraisers.
Until now, interacting with ChatGPT has been limited to writing individual text ‘prompts’ that direct ChatGPT to generate (hopefully) the text copy you’re seeking. It’s a free-form, but awkward interface designed more for exploration than for production.
Already there’s a body of knowledge and a fledgling industry growing up around the craft of ‘prompt engineering’ — writing and fine-tuning GPT prompt texts to generate the highest quality results.
An expertly crafted ChatGPT prompt can generate remarkably engaging texts for print, email, and social media that rival human-writers. Not convinced? Check out this video “Bot or Not?” from RKD Group.
So what does the appearance of ChatGPT mean for fundraisers? Will Chat-bots take over our jobs?
Not likely — at least not in the near future. What we can expect to see is a new generation of copywriting assistants that integrate ChatGPT’s generative capabilities into the fundraising software and systems we’re already using.
A ChatGPT for Fundraising Appeals
As an experiment, and to demonstrate what an AI-enabled appeal-writing assistant could do, I’ve created a simple web app that uses the ChatGPT API to generate fundraising texts for email appeals, social media, mobile texting, and other formats.
I’ve replaced ChatGPT’s free-form prompt interface with a set of form fields and radio buttons so a user can quickly set the parameters of an appeal — theme, audience, urgency, highlights — and generate fundraising texts in different formats.
Here’s a short video walkthrough:
Update: I’ve copy/pasted some samples of generated appeal texts at the bottom of this article.
How it works: When the user fills out the fields and clicks the “Generate copy” button, the app combines the form fields into a single prompt, adds some additional hard-coded prompt instructions, and submits it to the ChatGPT API service. It then waits for and displays the results that are sent back.
For this demo, the template for the prompt is pretty basic. It reads as:
“You are a helpful fundraising copywriter. Write a fundraising appeal for < organization name> in the form of <output format> on the topic of <appeal topic>, and highlighting the following important points: <highlights>”
And it works — to a point. The generated texts are well written, conform to the requested format, and generally convey the appeal message. They do, however, come off as pretty generic — suitable maybe as first drafts to be improved by a human editor to add more emotion, stronger narrative, and donor-centred language.
There are many improvements that could be made to this simple app. More options could be added to the form, such as ‘Language Tone’ or ‘Intended Audience’ to add more nuance to the generated texts. The prompt template could be improved by testing variations of the hard-coded instructions. And other functional enhancements could be added to make this a more valuable appeal-writing assistant, such as:
- creating multiple variations of each output for A:B testing
- including images from an AI generative art model, based on the text in the appeal
- customized gift asks for each individual donor based on an AI analysis of their giving history — though this would require a data connection to a donor database (not a big leap)
This isn‘t any sort of finished product. It’s just a demonstration of the kinds of AI-powered fundraising assistants we’re likely to see before too long.
Here are a few sample generated texts using the same prompts as in the video demo:
We urgently need your help to protect the world’s oceans and their inhabitants. As you may know, the final negotiations of the Global Oceans Treaty are in the final stages. At Greenpeace, we are working tirelessly to convince more countries to support a ban on deep sea mining.
Deep sea mining is a major threat to marine life, particularly whales. The noise and disruption from mining activities can cause serious harm to these majestic creatures, who rely on sound for communication, navigation, and finding prey. In addition, deep sea mining can cause widespread damage to entire ecosystems, putting countless species in danger.
The Global Oceans Treaty is our best chance to secure protection for the oceans and their inhabitants. We need to convince more countries to join the growing list of nations that have already committed to a ban on deep sea mining. This will send a strong message to the mining industry and help protect the ocean and all its inhabitants.
We urgently need your support to help make this happen. Your donation will help us continue our important work of convincing more countries to support a ban on deep sea mining. With your help, we can ensure that whales and other marine life are protected for generations to come.
Thank you for your continued support in protecting our oceans.
🚨URGENT APPEAL🚨 Deep Sea Mining poses a serious threat to whales & their habitats. With the Global Oceans Treaty final negotiations in the final stages, we need your support to convince more countries to ban deep sea mining. Help us protect these majestic creatures 🐳 #SaveTheWhales
🐋URGENT🐋 Protect whales by stopping Deep Sea Mining! We’re in the final stages for Global Ocean Treaty negotiations. Help us convince more countries to support a ban on deep sea mining to save these majestic creatures and their homes! #SaveTheWhales #ProtectOurOceans #Greenpeace
[Soft, calming music]
Narrator: Deep sea mining threatens the delicate balance of our oceans. It destroys the natural habitats of our most vulnerable creatures, including the majestic whales that we cherish so dearly. And time is running out to protect them.
Narrator: The Global Oceans Treaty final negotiations are in the final stages, and we need your help to convince more countries to support a ban on deep sea mining.
Narrator: Greenpeace is an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans and the creatures that call them home. We need your help to raise awareness and stop this destructive practice before it’s too late.
Narrator: Please visit our website to learn more about our efforts and how you can support our mission to protect the world’s oceans and the majestic creatures that call them home.
Narrator: Together, we can make a difference.
[Soft, calming music]
Visit www.Greenpeace.org today and join the fight to protect whales by stopping deep sea mining. Thank you for your support.